Coop Switzerland boosts productivity with Citizen printers

Coop Switzerland, the largest Swiss retail group, has boosted its productivity by installing high-performance POS and label printers from Citizen. The implementation of a new POS solution, composed of software, hardware and peripherals, began in 2011 and is on-going, with almost 9,000 Citizen printers already installed and more to come.

Coop Switzerland is close to all of its customers: 99% of the Swiss population can reach a Coop store within ten minutes or less. With some 820 sites, Coop has the tightest store network in Switzerland, operating supermarkets, mega stores, department stores and building supplies outlets all over the country. Furniture stores, perfumeries, watch and jewellery shops, pharmacies and restaurants are also part of the portfolio.

An efficient IT infrastructure is a prerequisite for the successful management of an organization this size. Coop’s POS environment, however, was far too heterogeneous and outdated to meet the company’s current requirements. “All the POS systems we used were individual solutions”, says Beat Pfister, Manager IT Development, Coop Switzerland. “And any development required a lot of effort. For example, because the software architecture was out of date, we could not even connect new peripherals via USB interfaces.”

Coop therefore started the modernization of its IT landscape with the implementation of a completely new POS solution that would equip all the sales channels with a scalable and powerful end-to-end system. New POS hardware from IBM and new POS software from GK Software were the two major components of this project.

New POS and label printers also needed to be installed, since the existing ones were error-prone, and spare parts were becoming increasingly difficult to find. Following a selection process, Coop decided to buy the new POS and label printers from Citizen. To date, Coop Switzerland has installed 7,000 CT-S801 POS printers and 1,700 CL-S621 label printers for shelf labelling. More installations are planned in the building, hobby, perfumery and department stores for 2012, and in the restaurants during 2013.

Printer performance thoroughly tested
Coop took their time – more than two years in total – to evaluate potential software and hardware vendors. The printers were also subject to strict performance and stress tests. “In order for us to find the appropriate printer, we put the models of several vendors through intensive laboratory tests”, explains Beat Pfister. “We conducted several tests to check the printers’ error rates, quality and stability and, of course, their heat output. Speed was an important selection criterion, because time is of the essence at the point of sale where customers expect to be served quickly.”

Ease of use saves time at the point of sale
With a printing speed of 300mm per second, Citizen’s POS printer CT-S801 achieved high scores during these performance tests. “The Citizen printers deliver high speed, and they are very stable”, says Beat Pfister. And there were even more strengths that tipped the scales in Citizen’s favour, especially the ease of use and the intelligent printer display. The Citizen printers provide users with information in three languages – Italian, German and French – and with one glance at the LCD display, the user can see whether the printer is functioning normally. If a problem develops, an error message is displayed in red, and a red lamp is switched on at the printer. Pre-configured messages instruct the user as to how the problem can be solved, for instance “Cover open” or “Paper missing”, which prevents the cashier from having to search for possible error sources.

Maintenance of the cutter and the thermal head is also very user-friendly, because their exchange is completely tool-free. Modules can be removed by simply unlocking two levers, and they can be put in place again within seconds.

The ease of use and the stability of the Citizen units represents a major step forward, as they secure the high availability of the printers. “The low failure rate will clearly improve our support handling,” confirms Beat Pfister.

Competent implementation, quick driver adaptation
The printers were delivered by Primelco System Device AG, Citizen’s POS hardware distributor in Switzerland, who supported Coop proactively during the entire project phase. Once the printers were delivered, Coop managed the staging and roll-out of the printers internally. Following a successful pilot installation, the roll-out of 7,000 CT-S801 POS printers and 1,700 CL-S621 devices for shelf labelling began. By the end of 2011, all 820 stores were equipped with the new printers.

One critical success factor in the implementation was the connection of the printers via a Java-POS interface, together with the adaptation of the Java-POS drivers. The IBM hardware is controlled via a powered USB interface. The printer does not need its own power supply, just a plug connector, and the connection is based on an open standard. “All parties involved worked very well together, which made it possible to develop the Java drivers very quickly,” says Rolf Thomann, Key Account Manager at Primelco. “The driver adaptation was achieved in just two months. One of the key decision criteria for Coop was Citizen’s capacity to make the driver adaptation in a quick, uncomplicated and flexible manner. There were a lot of adaptations to be done that would have taken much longer with other vendors.”

Efficient label printing – centralized and synchronized with the cashier price
A new solution was also required for label printing because the installed printers were reaching the end of their lifespan and generating many errors. It was also important to establish continuity. “Every store was managed individually, so that meant a lot of individual changes whenever there was a system update,” explains Beat Pfister.

As the label printing was fully integrated into the existing POS system, Coop decided to seek a centralized label printing solution. A major requirement of this was to achieve maximum consistency between the cashier price and the label price. In 2009, Coop had already gathered some experience with Citizen’s label printers in both their Lumimart light stores and Toptip furniture stores, and they decided to continue to work with Citizen. In cooperation with software vendor GK Software, the robust CL-S621 printers with metal print heads were implemented as the new solution for label printing.

The advantages of centralized configuration and error handling became quickly noticeable: transparent processes and a clearly structured management. New requirements can be put into practice easily now, while flexible guidelines for the creation of layouts, print relevance and the support of different formats and media enhance the individual possibilities of the application.

“When it comes to shelf labelling,” says Román Aresté, Sales Manager at Citizen Systems Europe, “the new solution offers major advantages, because it secures high consistency of the shelf prices and the prices in the system. The software needs to send the correct data to the printer – and this is exactly what the new solution enables”.

Robust and powerful, even with intensive use
The functionality of Citizen label printers proves its usefulness on a daily basis. The printing time can be selected flexibly, and a synchronous sending of the prices to printer and cashier allows a centralized monitoring across all stores. The robust construction of Citizen printers has also been a key advantage. “In order to meet the high requirements of shelf labelling, a label printer must be particularly robust”, explains Román Aresté. “Our printers have a solid metal printing head and an integrated power supply, enabling us to print large label quantities quickly and securely. In everyday use, heat dissipation is secured even with very large print jobs, so that our printers do not need cooling pauses. This is why our desktop printers have been adopted by Switzerland’s largest retailer.”

Access to the system is now possible from every store PC. Thanks to the centralization and the virtualization of the processes – several stores run on one virtual server – adapting to new requirements is now easier and more cost-effective.

The open software architecture, innovations and technological developments of the new POS solution have brought major productivity increases to Coop Switzerland, while the new hardware provides higher reliability and performance.

“The roll-out of this major project was only made possible by the high quality of the hardware and software components”, concludes Beat Pfister. “I would recommend Citizen.”

Citizen Systems Europe
Citizen Systems Europe operates from locations throughout Europe covering the EMEA region. It offers a wide range of printers for industrial, retail, healthcare and mobile applications specialising in label, barcode, portable and point-of-sale printers. In each case, the company’s products are sold and supported by a network of specialised partners.

Citizen Systems Europe is a wholly owned subsidiary of Citizen Systems Japan and part of the Citizen group of companies, a global organisation that manufactures products ranging from its world-famous Eco-Drive watches, calculators, mini-printers and industrial printing systems to machine tools, quartz oscillators, LEDs and other electronic components.

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